why and how to become a submissive wife

What Does It Mean To Be a Submissive Wife (+4 Bible Quotes)

Too many people hear the term “submissive wife” and immediately think “subjective,” “slave,” or “doormat,” but that couldn't be further from the truth.

The dictionary describes being “submissive” as “intending to submit.” And defines “submit” in three ways:

  • To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another.
  • To subject to a condition or process.
  • To present something for consideration or judgment of another: synonym: propose.

Unfortunately, our modern world tends to see submissive traits as a negative thing where you allow someone to abuse, dominate, or control your every move. This isn’t necessarily true, and shouldn’t be misconstrued as to how you should behave as a wife following biblical guidance.

But what does submitting to your husband mean in a biblical context?

What Does Submissive Mean in the Bible??

First and foremost, a submissive wife is not a doormat to be walked on. To be submissive, in short, means to unconditionally love, honor, and respect your husband as your provider, protector, lover, partner, and companion.

A submissive wife is a woman who puts herself under her husband's authority, as instructed in Ephesians 5:22-24. Being a submissive wife is a choice, not some concept of slave-like helplessness. It is an honorable quality rooted in respect and love.

Looking through the lens of the biblical context, submission is about putting another person's needs before your own, whether that person be your husband or children. The Bible teaches mutual submission in marriage. Instead of both partners defending their own needs, a Biblical marriage looks like two people caring for the needs of each other.

A submissive wife is a strong woman who pleases her husband spiritually and enjoys him physically. She is his reward in this life.

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. 

Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NLT)

Is Being a Submissive Wife Required?

The short answer: yes, being submissive to your husband is required by God, as is clearly outlined in scripture. 

Remember, submission means we respect our husbands as the head of the household.

The Bible is very clear about the hierarchy of the family. 

  1. God is the head [origin] of Jesus
  2. Jesus is the head of the Church/Assembly
  3. The husband is the head of his wife

Each having a specific headship and origin. God, the head of the church, created man from his own image (origin). God created woman out of man to serve as the man’s companion.

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. 24 But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything.

Ephesians 5:22-25 (WEB)

7 …because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man, for man wasn’t created for the woman, but the woman for the man… 11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12  For as the woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God.

1 Corinthians 11:7-12 (WEB)

Scripture saying you must be a submissive wife does not absolve your husband of his responsibilities too. Each verse has a meaning, but without the chapter, you lose context. And each biblical chapter isolated by itself is missing context from the book. And each book in the Bible isolated by itself is missing context without the rest of the books in the canonical. Yes, a wife should be submissive to her husband, but her husband is also commanded to be submissive to God, with his own set of responsibilities. 

How To Be a Submissive Wife

First, it’s time to move past any preconceived notions that the idea of submission is a sign of weakness (or laziness). Being a submissive Christian wife does not in any way, shape, or form mean that you’re not strong or ambitious. In fact, it is a sign of strength to love, perseverance, and courage to step out of a societal trauma point and lean into God's plan through Biblical teachings, including that of submitting to your husband.

A worthy woman is the crown of her husband, but a disgraceful wife is as rottenness in his bones.

Proverbs 12:4 (WEB)

Submissive wives are strong women who:

  • does everything out of love for her husband.
  • helps her husband as they work together to achieve family goals.
  • upholds God’s laws.
  • chooses to be her husband’s helper.
  • thrives in mutual respect.
  • prays for and with her husband
  • shares thoughts and opinions with her husband but gives him the space to make family decisions
  • kindly makes suggestions and encouragements
  • allows her husband to provide for and protect the family 
  • following your husband’s spiritual guidance and leadership
  • values quality time spent with her husband
  • prioritizes and enjoys intimacy
  • helps her husband understand he is enough for her
  • isn’t greedy or selfish
  • conducts random acts of kindness towards her husband
  • values her husband’s leadership in various activities
  • enjoys doing things for her husband without being asked
  • joyfully greets her husband when he returns home
  • isn’t bossy or argumentative 
  • find something to be grateful for about your husband each day
  • accepts her husband's love
  • finds ways to make her husband feel important
  • dresses modestly out of respect to herself and her husband
  • biblically fasts while in prayer to help ask God for guidance

Biblical submission is not about inequality or holding one up over the other. Instead, it's based on mutual respect. Submissiveness in the context of being a wife is about obeying God’s word and playing a support role.

When you decide to submit to your husband, you show him respect, elevating his confidence and drive to continue pushing through difficulty to care for, provide, and protect you. 

Examples of Being a Submissive Wife

Allow Your Husband To Lead

Leave some decisions un-made until he can contribute to the discussion. Make room for him to lead. A true gentleman will not push his way forward if his help is not wanted, but he will greatly respect and appreciate you for valuing him enough to seek his counsel first. Make room for him, which will mean backing off a bit from doing everything. He will rise to the occasion.

When you cannot seem to agree on something, set aside your own pride, and talk with him about why you feel convicted about something he disagrees with. Ask him his convictions, and understand his relationship with God will not always make sense, but honor him with the final say anyway. Sometimes we don’t always understand and get caught up in our own emotions that we don’t see what our husbands do.

Seek His Counsel, Advice, and Leadership

Being submissive means respecting your husband by considering his advice, needs, and priorities before being headstrong in making your own decisions. 

Accept him as your leader, protector, advisor, and provider. Care for your husband's needs, support his decisions, and be there for him unconditionally. Doing so improves his confidence and drive, assisting him in valuing you more, which takes your intimacy and relationship to a whole new level of loyalty and enjoyment. 

Serve as Each Other’s Accountability Partners

It is easy to be someone else’s accountability partner but not so much accepting them as yours. 

If you love, respect, encourage, and lift each other up, you’re more likely to openly give and receive wise counsel in matters of the heart, finances, discipleship, etc. Because you both know it’s coming from a place of love, not hurt or anger.

Unconditionally Trust Your Husband

Being submissive means trusting your husband to make the right choices for your family. 

Trusting him doesn’t mean you don’t get to contribute to the decision discussion. Yes, it’s your priority to be submissive, while it’s his priority to listen to you and ask God for guidance. 

So your husband should consider his opinion, your opinion, God's word, and God’s guidance, especially when making major decisions that affect your household. 

Trust him. Give him the space to earn your trust if you have difficulty trusting him wholly. 

Make Him Your Priority

Being a submissive wife means loving your husband unconditionally, and prioritizing his feelings, making your home a comforting place to come home to. 

Trust Him, Even if You Can't Agree

There are many times when it is too easy to argue. You see something he doesn’t, and it severely impacts the decision you’re discussing. Sometimes that leads you to know that if you say “ok, ” you’ll feel resentful later.  

You need open communication to begin with. 

Don’t just say ok if you disagree. Have a conversation about your thoughts and opinions. At the same time, he shouldn’t be making decisions without discussing them with you. Ultimately you are a team, and both need to be involved for things to be successful. There are times when you won’t agree with what your husband wants, but use that time to gently share your heart and thoughts. Even if he doesn’t change his mind, you’ll feel better knowing you communicated what you needed to. As a woman, you have a unique perspective on things that he might not otherwise consider.

If you can’t come to a joint conclusion, follow his lead, and know God is leading him, even when neither of you truly understands. Believe that God is the head of your family, placed at the center of everything. He will not lead you and your husband anywhere he doesn’t need you to be. 

True submission is letting go. Let go of what you want, and respect whatever choice he makes. Encourage him to pray deeply about it and consider your objections before deciding. Then trust that he will make the right decision for both of you. 

Be Strong When He Can’t

This isn’t talked about enough. There are life-changing moments every man endures that feels like a complete breaking point, especially with the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

If you come to a point in time where your husband looks to you with tear-filled eyes and tells you to make a decision, honor him by doing so while taking into account anything he’s mentioned in the past regarding his opinion and confliction. 

Whether he feels strong and capable or beaten down and needs rest, encourage him to be in the Word and be ready to take the helm as his teammate and partner. 

When a Problem Arises, Think: Does It Really Matter?

Seriously. We all have problems and conflicts within our marriages at some point in time. Take a serious look at the issues at hand. Will it still matter in a week? If not, pray and let it go.

99% of the time, when you sit back and think about it, you’ll realize his actions weren’t malicious in nature. Use that to reframe your mindset, and ask God to assist in changing how you approach the situation.

Benefits of Submitting to Your Husband

When both a husband and wife employ God’s expectations towards each other, nothing but blessings result. Each feels respected, loved, honored, and adored. 

Relieves Stressful Burdons

Submitting to your husband removes a lot of stress and pressure from you so you can focus more on serving your family, especially if you have children. While he worries about providing, you’re free to act in a support role, cooking, cleaning, teaching your kids, and focusing on your feminine strengths. 

I’ll never forget staring at the reality of my husband potentially losing his job and losing sleep over what I could do to ease the burden of our one income disintegrating with very little notice. We toiled for a month about what we could do to make up for the income loss while I fretted through each night, formulating what I could do when he was at work to add an additional stream of income to our family while homeschooling, serving as a homemaker, and being his support role without disrupting our family routine. It was a very heavy moment resulting in my physical health decline. I realized after that how much more I should value my husband and everything he does for us. 

Happiness Through a Missing Piece 

It’s an interesting phenomenon: how much joy and happiness you experience when striving to live as described in the Bible. Liberating happiness. 

I know it might sound odd… to be happy submitting… almost counter-intuitive in today’s culture. But it's true: embracing your God-given role makes you feel more fulfilled and happier. 

When God gives you instructions, it is for your own benefit. 

I unexpectedly learned this the hard way as a very independent military veteran. But after my husband and I married, I was quickly surprised by how enjoyable it was to be his support team at home. 

Teaching Your Children

How you treat your husband is how you teach your daughters to treat their future husbands and what you teach your sons to expect from their future wives. And more importantly, you teach your children how to respect and abide by the Word of God. 

Improves Your Marriage, Reducing Your Chances of Divorce

When you treat your husband with respect, submitting to his leadership, you show him how much you value him. This increases his loyalty, respect, and adoration for you, renewing his commitment to loving, providing for, and protecting you. 

When he feels valued, he reciprocates by showing you value, making his appreciation known and reciprocated. This in turn also reduces his stress and increases his desire to be with you in multiple capacities. 

What if My Husband Isn't Acting Biblically?

This question hits me hard. My journey as a wife wasn't always pretty or inspiring. In fact, several times I've been encouraged and tempted to leave by friends and family, but I always felt convicted to stay, even through the worst of our marriage and overall relationship. Ultimately, persevering through it and leaning into scripture was worth it.

When the husband submits to God, he can better lead his wife and treat her as she should. Not like some doormat, drunk in his “prideful power.” The wife is his helping companion; the husband should love her like Christ loves the church. If your husband is not submitting to God, it is your duty as the helpful companion to gently encourage him to return to complying with scripture.

I remember watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the mother tells the bride that the man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and the neck can turn the head to see anything it wants. That quote made me laugh but drove home the dynamic between husband and wife, further discussed in 1 Peter chapter 3 (quoted below).

Gently Lead Him Back to God

Your husband's flesh may want to be the king of your heart, which is understandable, but your walk with the Lord is your top priority, even above your relationship with your husband. Scripture doesn’t leave a wife without hope in these situations. Let your husband see your walk with Christ, your commitment, and your living faith

It may take time (for my family, it took 6 years), but he will eventually feel the pull and be convicted. Through this difficulty, offer him loving encouragement, and pray for his spiritual deliverance and growth above all else.

In the same way, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; so that, even if any don’t obey the Word, they may be won by the behavior of their wives without a wordseeing your pure behavior in fear. Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

1 Peter 3:1-4 (WEB)

What does this mean? If your husband is not acting in line with scripture, it is your duty to gently and faithfully lead him back to following God’s commands, guidance, and authority.

What if My Husband Isn’t a Christian?

Again, 1 Peter 3:1-4

In the same way, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; so that, even if any don’t obey the Word, they may be won by the behavior of their wives without a word, seeing your pure behavior in fear. Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

1 Peter 3:1-4 (WEB)

Your husband may not be a Christian… yet…, but he is still your husband, and you, as a Christian wife, still need to respect God’s direction for you. Follow your husband as long as his direction honors your faith. 

Thoughts About Transitioning From Being a Strong Independent Woman To Becoming a Submissive Wife

I started my adult years enlisted in the Navy. I had a drive and a need to be independent, especially after enduring a series of childhood abuse. Both my working parents pushed me to be as independent as possible because I “couldn't” trust a man to take care of me. After working 60+ hour weeks and being bossed around, the last thing I wanted to do in my off time was to listen to someone else guilt me into doing anything I didn't want to do (my immature perspective of submission pushed on me by my mom). Since leaving the Navy, life became very difficult enduring chronic illness, and God used that time to soften my heart, sparking my perspective change with one simple book.

While wandering through a bookstore on one of my better days, I felt convicted to purchase and read a book from the sociology section called What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us by Danielle Crittenden. It's a phenomenal book with the tagline “Why happiness eludes the modern woman,” and beautifully answers the complex question: Why, if we have all this equality in the world today, are women in our generation less happy than that of our great-grandmothers and previous generations? My perspective of gender roles significantly changed while reading that book, realizing the devastation the overall feminist movement inflicted on women for several generations. I gained a substantial amount of clarity that inspired me to study traditional relationship customs, which led to studying how the Bible directs us to interact and eventually brought me to joyfully embrace life as a stay-at-home wife and mom, submitting to my husband's leadership.

What is amazing about journeying together into the depths of scripture and seeking a relationship with God at the center of your marriage is how much stronger you become as a couple and as individuals. 

My husband and I have lived through slipping from following the Gospel, stumbling through life, and returning to scripture together. Our relationship is phenomenal compared to how it had been when we argued for around 6 years (more than half our marriage at the time). Now, he submits to God, and I submit to him. In no way do I feel like I'm lesser or subordinate. In fact, I feel more loved than I ever have, even as a child. 

In our marriage, my submitting to him means he leads the household when we face difficulty or life-changing events. We live in God's natural order, and everything is so much more peaceful.

It takes me back to my favorite quote:

“Woman was taken out of man; not out of his head to top him, nor out of his feet to be trampled underfoot; but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved” 

Talmud

And I can honestly say when I chose to pray for my husband and elevate him to his biblical position in our family, our marriage dynamic significantly improved (almost immediately), and I began to enjoy our life together so much more. 

Resources & Inspiration To Guide You Through True Biblical Submission

Podcasts:

  • Fierce Marriage Podcast by (Listen on their website, Apple, Google, Amazon Audible, or Stitcher)
  • Everyday Wife Podcast by Anneliese (Listen on Podtail, Apple, or Google)
  • Courageous Parenting: Make Your Marriage a Team Again (Listen on Apple or on their website)
  • Intentional Parents Podcast: Are the various gender roles in marriage just cultural constructs? What is the purpose of the different roles in a marriage, and what does the Bible say about it? A 4-part series. (Listed on Apple Podcasts)
  • Athey Creek Devoted Podcast: Episode 71: Beautiful Design Series #6: Submission Isn’t a Bad Word (Listen on Apple Podcasts)

Books To Read

** Please note, some of these links may be partnership links resulting in a small commission when the linked item is purchased. This is at no cost to you. For more information, see our disclosures page.

  • Captivating Revised & Updated: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge (find it on Amazon)
  • Created to be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious by Debi Pearl (find it on Amazon)
  • Finding the Hero in Your Husband, Revisited: Embracing Your Power in Marriage by Dr. Juli Slattery (find it on Amazon
  • Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson (find it on Amazon)
  • The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (find it on Amazon)
  • Reclaiming Eve: The identity & Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God by Suzanne Burden, Carla Sunberg, and Jamie Wright (find it on Amazon)
  • Reforming Marriage: Gospel Living for Couples by Douglas Wilson (find it on Amazon)
  • Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands by Gary Thomas (find it on Amazon)
  • The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide To Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace by Laura Doyle (find it on Amazon)

If your husband likes to read, Wild At Heart by John Eldredge is a great book for men, very similar to the Captivating book for women. I mention this because it is so helpful when your husband is ready to grow in your relationship with you. 

Closing Thoughts About Being a Submissive Christian Wife

Pray and ask for Holy Spirit to help you be more submissive, humble, patient, gentle, and kind (Galatians 5:22-23). Pray it each day.

Jesus, “full of the Holy Spirit “ (Luke 4:1), submitted to God and did everything he was called to do. Emulating him by making an effort to do the same thing as a believer and wife just makes sense.

Author: Nicole Graber

Title: Writer, Editor, Coach

Expertise: Natural Wellness, Healthy Lifestyle, Home Business Strategy, Motherhood

Bio:

Nicole is a military-trained research analyst, homeschooling mom, healthy lifestyle coach, flexible business consultant, and writer for MotherhoodTruth.com and GracefullyAbundant.com, with bylines from MSN.com and the AP Newswire. After living through and overcoming a season of homelessness and chronic health, Nicole developed a passion for helping others develop healthier habits using functional nutrition, herbalism, and renewing faith.

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